As school districts continue to discover the benefits of blended learning – including freeing up classroom time for more personalized interaction, better engaged students, and more informed parents – teachers are searching for techniques on how to bridge the gap between the physical and online learning environments.
For example: How can you blend paper-based activities like worksheets, oral presentations, hands-on activities such as labs, or classroom discussions?
The key to making these blends work is to use your school’s learning platform or learning management system to ensure that you can seamlessly plan, assess and report on these offline activities. Because, at the end of day, it’s all about how well your students have achieved the learning objectives associated with these assignments.
So, how can you start blending?
Here are 10 common offline classroom activities, along with some useful tips about how to blend them for your classroom.
1. The Reading Assignment (Book-based)
Typically, when teachers assign book-based reading assignments, there is no effective way for the students to let the teachers know that they’ve completed the assignment.
Using your learning platform, you should be able to easily create a reading task as an assignment, including due dates, instructions, an image of the book for visual interest and identity, as well track whether or not the student has completed the reading assignment. (“Read Chapters 1 – 2 of The Giver and mark the assignment as completed.”)
You, as the teacher, can then see a record of whether or not the students have completed the assignment.
Be sure to associate learning objectives within your learning platform, as well as rubric or other assessments, if appropriate, so that you can later run a report on how well the students achieved those learning objectives for sharing with students, parents and administrators.
2. The Reading Assignment (Online-based)
If you are assigning a reading task for text that appears on a website, or is in some other digital format, you may consider copying and pasting the text itself into the assignment window. This way, students won't have to consult an additional resource for the materials, and can keep within the secure limits of your learning platform as they work.
Adding images, links and videos (see tip #3 below) will keep your students engaged and interested. Giving students the responsibility of marking when they have completed the assignment will provide them with a sense of ownership in the learning process.
3. Homework: Video or Audio
Assigning students to watch a video or listen to audio outside of class in preparation for an in-class discussion is a classic example of the flipped classroom model, in which students review materials outside of class, so they can use classroom time for more in-depth interactions.
Many times, as with reading assignments, there is no way for teachers to track whether or not the student has actually watched the video or listened to the audio. Learning platform to the rescue!
Create an assignment in the system and embed your video or audio into the assignment, along with your instructions, due dates, learning objectives and assessments, if appropriate. Ask students to check a box to let you know that they have completed the homework assignment so that you can see at a glance who has completed their homework.
4. Offline Homework (Paper Worksheets)
For paper assignments, such as worksheets, you can set up assignments as described in the above activities to help you track completion. However, you would probably not want the students to check off the completed box themselves because it would be quite easy for them to check and then forget (either accidentally or purposely!) to hand in the actual paper.
In this case, you can instead set the completed box to only be accessible to the teacher so that you can check the box after the student hands you the paper.
5. Administrative Paperwork (Permission Slips)
Finally, an easier way to keep track of those permission slips and other administrative paperwork that always seem to come across your desk! Create an assignment in your learning platform with some quick instructions related to the form, and then embed the paperwork as a PDF for your students to download and print!
Check off when students have turned in the paperwork so you know whom to remind later when permission slips are missing.
6. Verbal Presentations
Perhaps your students are going on a field trip, and you want to assign a pair and share activity for them to discuss their experiences, and then record their notes on paper to hand in to you.
Using your learning platform, you can set up this activity as an assignment (“Share With Your Group – Field Trip”), and associate learning objectives and assessments, along with due dates and other details.
After the students hand you their papers, you can check off that you’ve received them, complete their assessment, and later run and share reports regarding how well they’ve achieved those learning objectives.
7. Hands-On Projects (Layered Book Foldable)
In Houston Independent School District (Houston, Texas), educators were looking at ways a learning platform could help streamline classroom management around paper-based curriculum, as well as more easily assess these projects against learning objectives.
One example they presented was a Biomes Tabbed Foldable, a hands-on project that students were to submit to the teacher once completed.
Teachers discovered that they could use their learning platform to enter the project as an assignment, and paste from Word the directions for the project, as well as a list of needed materials. By directly entering the text online, students would be spared the frustration of having to download and then open a separate document to access these project notes.
Later, when time to track completion, assess and run reports, teachers could do so in the same environment, using their learning platform rather than losing time logging into a separate system (and remembering another password!).
8. Discussion Participation
After setting up a discussion board, optimally within the security of your learning platform, you’ll want to have a way to keep track of classroom discussion assignments, such as “Create Two Posts Minimum in the Climate and Weather Discussion Board.”
You can do this by setting up an assignment as discussed in the above sections, and asking the students to check a box when they have completed the two assigned posts.
9. Web-Based Activity
Let’s say you have asked your students to complete exercises available on a particular website, such as one with interactive bar graphs. Simply set up your assignment, and add instructions, images and a link to the site. Then ask your students to check off that they have done the exercises.
Optionally, you could ask your students to print out the completed exercises from the site and then have them turn in the papers to you. In this case, it would make more sense for you to be the one to check off the completed box.
10. Reader Response Journal
Assignment: English students are given the option to read their choice of books. Once a week, they are to write a paragraph in their reader's journal about what they have read.
Rather than use a paper journal, students could complete their entries in an online journal that sits within the learning platform. Teachers would then create a separate assignment, as described in the prior activities, and direct students to complete their journal entry. When finished, students check the completed box to show that the post has been made, making it easier for teachers to keep track of journal entries.
If implementing this idea in your classroom, you could give students an additional option by allowing them to choose whether they would like to type in their online journal, or use a paper notebook. Jennifer Sorem, a social studies teacher at Carl Wunsche Sr. High School (Spring ISD - Spring, Texas), says that she gives students the option for using paper, as some of their special education students prefer this method.
If handing in paper, set up the assignment as described previously and simply check off when you have received the paper.
There You Have It!
Blending ideas for 10 common offline activities. With some simple adaptations to your current curriculum, you can uncover just how powerful your learning platform can be in facilitating blended instruction.
All of the above techniques can be accomplished using the Custom Activity Tool in the itslearning learning platform. For details on how to use this tool, view the video The Custom Activity Tool – Perfect for the blended learning classroom.